Chutes and Ladders

Snakes and Ladders

Don’t look now–it’s SNAKES and ladders. (Ewww!)

Matthew 7:27: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had the misfortune to play Chutes and Ladders with a child. I have, and I think it has scarred me for life. The game, in case you’ve been lucky enough to never play it, uses a conventional game board adorned with—wait for it—chutes and ladders depicted on it. Players can advance up the ladders to the goal, which is a representation of a first place ribbon, which to me doesn’t seem much compensation for that much time wasted. Gamers can also land on a chute space, which sends them back down the path. That’s what frustrated me—I would be about to land on the blue ribbon when I moved to a chute, which more often than not sent me to the beginning, and so the game continued…and continued…and continued.

Chutes and Ladders could have been worse, though—the game had its origins in India, where it was called Snakes and Ladders. If there’s anything worse than chutes, it’s snakes. No thanks. I’m with Indiana Jones on that one.

Snakes and Ladders originated in ancient India and came to Great Britain in 1892. Milton Bradley picked it up, and the rest is history. The 1892 version was used to teach morality, the idea being that children who climbed ladders (i.e., did the right thing) reached the goal (a nice home, a car, a pony, I don’t know) while children who did not do right took a chute to the lower areas of the board.

I was reminded of this game when I saw several movies in which characters slid down ladders. They did this by clamping their feet to the side rails of the ladder and controlling their descent with their hands. It looked like a pretty good way to burn the palms of your hands off, and as much as I don’t like to be up on a ladder, if I survive the climb to the top, I’m not going to slide back down. I’ll go back the way I came, rung by rung.

I think the spiritual application is fairly clear. We all “climbing Jacob’s ladder” toward our goal of growing in Christlikeness, but if we land on a chute because of something we’ve done, we’re not condemned to languish in the lower regions. Instead, God picks us up, dusts us off and, in the words of the hymn,

Lifts us up and lets us stand, 

By faith, on Heaven’s tableland,

A higher plane than we have found;

God plants our feet on higher ground.

The chutes are not permanent, but the ladders lead to an eternity with the Father and the heavenly host. Praise to the God who lifts us up and brings us home. Amen.


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